Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Passenger 57 (1992)

Sorry, Harrison Ford, I'm going with Wesley Snipes.

When I reviewed Air Force One two weeks ago, I mentioned I ordered Passenger 57. I was curious to see what film about one man taking on bad guys on a jet would prove more entertaining.

Wesley, I'm with you.


Could running length be a factor? Passenger 57 wraps up in less than 90 minutes. Air Force One runs about two hours.

Air Force One included a subplot involving the American vice-president and efforts by at least one member of her cabinet to have the president declared incapacitated. I found Glenn Close weak in her role and the political hijinks tiresome.

With Passenger 57, the subplot isn't nearly as involved. Airline security expert John Cutter (Wesley Snipes) is hired by an airline to offer security tips. Company boss Stuart Ramsey (Bruce Greenwood) and Cutter's buddy, Sly Delvecchio (Tom Sizemore), who lobbied for him to get the job, have a very simple Plan A and B depending how Cutter makes out when the plane he's a passenger on gets hijacked. See next paragraph. Scheming subplot advantage, Passenger 57.

Gary Oldman was a good villain in Air Force One, except for when he started screaming. Maybe that was to suggest he was a little mentally unbalanced. I found it annoying. But Bruce Payne, as terrorist Charles Rane, rocks. This guy doesn't raise his voice at all. He keeps calm and has deadly intent. Advantage Payne in the villain department.

Hey, with all the special effects in movies, it's fun to see Cutter often resort to his hands and feet to dispatch Payne's punks. Snipes, in real life, is a trained martial artist. There's still, just like Air Force One, too many guns firing on an airplane however many thousands of feet in the air without any shell damage, but that's the movies. Wesley Snipes, your use of martial arts is a hit. Bam!

Harrison Ford, as the American president, gets to tell Oldham to "get off my plane." But where's the rest of the wisecracks. Cutter gets in some good digs against Delvecchio, Payne and Chief Biggs (Ernie Lively) when the jet touches down in a small town. "My instincts are to wax your ass all over this floor," Cutter suggests to Payne at one point. Smart, and funny, line advantage to Snipes. Almost forgot, there's a funny reference to then talk show host Arsenio Hall here too.

I also found the villain's buddies to be more threatening in Passenger 57. That's with the exception of Elizabeth Hurley. How her Sabrina Ritchie gets mixed up with Payne is a big question that's never explained. There's one scene with her leg stretched out. A little eye candy? But the rest of Payne's crew, including Forget (Michael House), mean business. I'd be more scared to be on a plane in Passenger 57 than Air Force One.

There's not much chance for romance in Air Force One. While Ford is trying to take back his plane, his wife and daughter are being held hostage. But Cutter gets the chance to rub stewardess Marti Slayton (Alex Datcher) the wrong way in a pre-highjacking encounter, before showing her what a top dog he really is when the going gets tough. Alex, you're a fine looking woman and there's some nice chemistry between you and Wesley. Passenger 57 wins in the romance department.

Passenger 57, made five years before Air Force One, is a better film. What do you think?

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Bruce Greenwood is a Canadian talent. His television debut was on CBC's long-running The Beachcombers. Cool. He was also President John F. Kennedy in the very fine Thirteen Days. That film is also on order and will be reviewed on this site.

I wonder if Bruce Payne was a snooty Englishman in Oxford Blues, the Rob Lowe feature I saw back in high school.

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